Preparing for the PSAT


Preparation books are used and provided to help students study for the PSAT.

Students crammed into campus lecture halls and classrooms as they took the PSAT or the National Merit Qualifying Scholarship Test on Oct. 10.  With the testing now over, students reflected on how well they prepared for the test as well as their overall expectations of how they performed.

The PSAT covered four different subjects: reading, writing, non-calculator math and calculator math. For juniors, scoring a high percentile also qualified students for National Merit scholarships and other financial opportunities that could benefit students when applying for college. For some students, this placed a strong importance upon the PSATs and the need to strong prepare for it.

“Usually sophomores will take their PSAT in October. They get their results back usually before winter break or maybe immediately after,” gifted education teacher Barbara Turnbull said. “I get all the results for the whole school and then I look at them, determine their cut-off, and then I see those students who are able to become commended or reach National Merit and then I tell them that I would be willing to work with them. We’re here to help any student that wants to improve their scores. Any student. We’re just more than happy to do whatever we can.”

Before the day of the test, some students prepare by taking practice texts to understand the content and to practice under the same conditions as the real test. BVN provided students with some of these preparation tools, such as test preparation books, a test strategy session on Sept. 6 that was available for juniors, and two practice test sessions also made available to juniors on Sept. 13 and Sept. 27.

“We have prep sessions for students on late arrival Thursdays,” Turnbull said, “and we have them purchase a book that we recommend all of the juniors to use in order to prep for the PSAT. And so we run these two tests, and then they grade them, and if they want help from us or from their math or English teachers, we give them a couple weeks to do so. We also have all these practice books, all sorts of standardized tests we have available at any time if they ask.”

The PSAT is modeled after standardized tests that students typically take for applying to schools. The testing period can be used to assess their knowledge and capability in their studies.

‘“We take a PSAT sophomore year, and that’s when the whole realization comes in that junior year you have another PSAT coming, which is one that determines National Merit,” junior Nick Buffo said. “I guess that I started thinking about it sophomore year since it was when you saw here’s where you were and decided, “Okay, do I need to move up or keep on doing what you’re doing?” I’d say I realized that in sophomore year and started studying in the beginning of the school year.”’

To some students, such as juniors Nick Buffo and junior Gabe Deng, the test was a major landmark in their learning with specific goals they wished to reach, and they developed study plans. As the testing day grew closer, these students began to see the significance of doing well.

“My goal to reach heading into the PSAT was becoming a National Merit Finalist,” Deng said. “I first started thinking about this when one of my counselors told me about this opportunity back in spring, so about six to seven months before the test. At first I didn’t really think too much of reaching that goal since I had so much time to study, but then as it got closer I realized the great opportunity and the scholarships you could get and the value of the recognition you get.”

Using the resources provided to them and practicing on their own, After taking the test both students claimed that they were adequately prepared for the content in the test, and that nothing was unexpected as they took the test. But they had some difficulty, and they also wished they had more time to study, but they also realized that the results of the test wouldn’t determine everything for their school life, and that they would have more opportunities in the future to do just as well.

“Definitely go into it with an open mind,” Buffo said. “Don’t let this number decide who you are. It’s just for a thing for National Merit. And it’s a big thing to some people and definitely taken into consideration. Trying to get National Merit was a big thing for me too. But definitely, for anyone going in, if you want to do well, then prepare. Get ready for it. Prepare mentally more often, so that questions you study will prepare your mind and you as you go in and take the test.”